Wednesday: Hili dialogue (and Leon monologue)

August 18, 2021 • 6:30 am

Good morning on a Hump Day, August 18, 2021: National Ice-Cream Pie Day. In my view, though, ice cream is best placed as a scoop atop a warm pie rather than actually being the filling of a pie. It’s also National Fajita Day, Pinot Noir Day, Helium Discovery Day, celebrating the day the element was identified in 1868, and National Bad Poetry Day. There’s some really good bad poetry out there, and I’d steer you to the timeless works of American poetess Julia A. Moore (the “Sweet Singer of Michigan”) and her Scottish equivalent, William McGonagall. In fact, there’s a whole book of the world’s best bad poetry called The Stuffed Owl, which you might put in your bathroom. It’s good for a lot of laughs. For an example of Moore’s oeuvre, I recommend the poem “Little Libbie.” For McGonagall, read “The Tay Bridge Disaster.”

News of the Day:

Taliban 2.0 in Afghanistan are trying to put on a kinder face, starting Twitter accounts and, according to the New York Times, giving “vague assurances to women.” That is bullshit. They are engaged in the same oppression they’re known for, and the women of Afghanistan know it:

. . . many are deeply fearful, among them the millions of Afghan women who are afraid of a return to a repressive past, when the Taliban were in power from 1996 to 2001, and barred women and girls from taking most jobs or going to school. In 1996, a woman in Kabul had the end of her thumb cut off for wearing nail varnish, according to Amnesty International. In recent months, some women have been flogged by Taliban fighters for having their faces uncovered.

And Taliban 2.0 is already searching the houses of Afghanistan for young single women to marry to their “fighters.”

On the same page, Malala Yousafzai, whom the Taliban tried to kill for going to school, has an op-ed called “I fear for my Afghan sisters.

Afghan girls and young women are once again where I have been — in despair over the thought that they might never be allowed to see a classroom or hold a book again. Some members of the Taliban say they will not deny women and girls education or the right to work. But given the Taliban’s history of violently suppressing women’s rights, Afghan women’s fears are real. Already, we are hearing reports of female students being turned away from their universities, female workers from their offices.

. . . We will have time to debate what went wrong in the war in Afghanistan, but in this critical moment we must listen to the voices of Afghan women and girls. They are asking for protection, for education, for the freedom and the future they were promised. We cannot continue to fail them. We have no time to spare.

What can we do for them? I will try to find out. One way is The Malala Fund, her own fund to help Afghan women, though it’s unclear how the money will be used now that the Taliban country the country.

It turns out that desperate Afghans trying to cling to departing airplanes in Kabul were indeed killed in the attempt. As the Washington Post reports,

The Air Force said on Tuesday that it is launching an investigation into the deaths of civilians related to a C-17 flight that departed Kabul, including reports of people falling from the airborne plane and human remains that were later found in a wheel well.

Back to the pandemic. It now looks as if we’ll all be getting booster shots for the coronavirus, with older folks and the immunocompromised first. Word on the street is that U.S. health authorities will very soon recommend a booster eight months after the second shot. That would be soon for many of us—September for me.

But there’s good news tonight! Alicia from Madrid, who was profiled here, has adopted a white kitten. The details:

I just want to tell you that my flat has a new inhabitant, a 4-month old kitten named Chema M I adopted 10 days Iago from a local shelter/foster home. He is a handsome lad, good humoured, loves cuddles. As you have been at least partially responsible for my decision, I’ve named you his honorary godfather (CeilingCatfather? Ungodlyfather?).

When I asked about the name, I got this response:

His full name is Chema Måneskin. Chema is a Spanish nickname for ‘José María’ or ‘José Manuel’, this last one is the name the foster family had chosen. Both are men’s names. His ‘surname’, Måneskin, means moonlight in Danish, and I thought it appropiate for his fair hair and blue eyes. It is also the name of the Italian rock group who won Eurovision song contest and whose songs I seem to listen to endlessly these days.

And here are two photos of the lovely Chema:

Finally, today’s reported Covid-19 death toll in the U.S. is 623,237, an increase of 696 deaths over yesterday’s figure. The reported world death toll is now 4,396,138, 4,384,989, an increase of about 11,200 over yesterday’s total.

Stuff that happened on August 18 includes:

Here’s the first page of the Grámatica, with the dedication and prologue:

  • 1590 – John White, the governor of the Roanoke Colony, returns from a supply trip to England and finds his settlement deserted.
  • 1612 – The trial of the Pendle witches, one of England’s most famous witch trials, begins at Lancaster Assizes.

12 women were accused, one died in prison, eleven were tried, and of the ten convicted, all were hanged. What a world!

A fabled city now down on its luck, Timbuktu was a thriving town on the trans-Saharan salt-trade route. Now there are few visitors because of military activity and kidnappings in the area. Many of its buildings were made of mud, as this one, Sankore University, and part of the town is a World Heritage site. 

An old postcard of the city, with the university in the background:

Suffragettes, and they won! This shows how the force of moral reason leads to progress:

“Never in the history of mankind has so much been owed by so many to so few”.

You should know who said that stirring sentence, first uttered on August 16, 1940.

1958 – Vladimir Nabokov‘s controversial novel Lolita is published in the United States.

A first edition of this classic, in two volumes, will run you about $9,000:

Here he is on graduation day. The racism that he faced, which was endemic at Ole Miss, is unbelievable:

  • 1977 – Steve Biko is arrested at a police roadblock under the Terrorism Act No. 83 of 1967 in King William’s Town, South Africa. He later dies from injuries sustained during this arrest bringing attention to South Africa’s apartheid policies.

Biko, an anti-apartheid activist was in fact beaten to death by South African security officers and died at 30 from brain injuries:

Notables born on this day include:

Nothing is known of what became of Dare, or the other colonists of the “lost colony”, for by 1590 the inhabitants had mysteriously disappeared.  Theories range from mass murder by local Native Americans to intermarriage with them, though the latter seems improbable.

  • 1774 – Meriwether Lewis, American soldier, explorer, and politician (d. 1809)
  • 1922 – Alain Robbe-Grillet, French director, screenwriter, and novelist (d. 2008)
  • 1961 – Bob Woodruff, American journalist and author

Those who went to a Better Place on August 18 include:

Khan founded the Mongol Empire, the largest contiguous land empire in history. It was the second largest if you count empires that were discontinuous, and I bet you can guess which empire was #1 there.

  • 1850 – Honoré de Balzac, French novelist and playwright (b. 1799)
  • 1945 – Subhas Chandra Bose, Indian activist and politician (b. 1897)

Bose, a respected Indian nationalist and President of the Indian National Congress, somewhat tarnished his reputation later in life by trying to form alliances with both the Nazis and Japanese during WWII to help boot the British from India. He organized the Indian National Army for Indian fighters to battle the British in collaboration with the Japanese. Bose died at 48 in the crash of a Japanese plane that crashed in Taiwan. Many think it was sabotage, but most historians agree it was a regular plane crash. Here’s Bose, a controversial figure to this day:

  • 1990 – B. F. Skinner, American psychologist and philosopher, invented the Skinner box (b. 1904)

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn: Hili’s concerned about the roses:

Hili: The roses are poor this year.
A: They were destroyed by frost, now they are growing again.
In Polish:
Hili: Marne te róże w tym roku.
Ja: Wymarzły w zimie, teraz odrastają.

Leon, Mietek, and his staff are vacationing in the southern mountains. It’s time to eat!

Leon: Are we coming down for breakfast?

In Polish: Schodzimy na śniadanie?

An albino greater horseshoe bat from The Fabulous Weird Trotters on Facebook. Look at those veins!

From Bruce, an interpretation of the yin and yang meme:

Another duck meme from Jesus of the Day (I’ve shown the picture before). Why can’t God be a duck?

Masih interviews an Afghan woman (sound up: 5 minute video):

Once again Representative Lauren “I got my Glock” Boebert makes an ass of herself. Can she really be elected to a second term?

From Ginger K.

From Simon. I’ve seen trains like this in India (and planes like this in Afghanistan), but Rechavi likes to give these pictures an academic spin. Simon’s note: “There is some debate in this one as to whether he is referring to co-authors or supplementary materials.” I think it’s the authors.

A tweet from Barry, reviving the “cultural appropriation” fracas that I thought had died down:

Tweets from Matthew, the first showing the perigrinations of a right whale.

And the bravest women in the world. A wider video of a picture I showed yesterday.

Matthew says of this tweet, “Sadly true.”

Monday: Hili dialogue (and Leon monologue)

August 16, 2021 • 6:30 am

Good morning on the start of a new week: Monday, August 16, 2021: National Rum Day. This is of course cultural appreciation, as fermented sugarcane drink is mentioned in early Sanskrit texts, and the beverage appeared in its modern form in the Caribbean in the 18th century. It’s also National Bratwurst Day, Cupcake Day (in Australia), where the proceeds from cupcake sales go to the RSPCA (Kiwis: is this the case?), National Roller Coaster Day, True Love Forever Day, National Airborne Day, and, in Palaua-de-Cerdagne, France, it’s a special holiday celebrating hot chocolate, Xicolatada.

News of the Day:

By the time you read this, Kabul will be almost entirely in the hands of the Taliban, and Americans will be fleeing home. I hope the Afghans who endangered themselves by helping U.S. forces can also get out, but it will be a precipitious exit. And now the inevitable darkness of Islamic theocracy descends on a country of good people.

I just read the updated NYT article. It’s even worse than before: two people have been killed at the airport, there is total chaos, and there’s this note:

Residents of Kabul began tearing down advertisements that showed women without head scarves for fear of upsetting the Taliban, whose ideology excludes women from much of public life.

Here’s Saigon West:

A NYT “guest essay” by Frederick Kagan asserts in the title, “Biden could have stopped the Taliban. He chose not to.” How could he have stopped them. By withdrawing troops during the slack season as well as maintaining a more continuous U.S. presence there in regional counterterrorism bases:

As U.S. military planners well know, the Afghan war has a seasonal pattern. The Taliban leadership retreats to bases, largely in Pakistan, every winter and then launches the group’s fighting season campaign in the spring, moving into high gear in the summer after the poppy harvest. At the very least, the United States should have continued to support the Afghans through this period to help them blunt the Taliban’s latest offensive and buy time to plan for a future devoid of American military assistance.

And we should have worried about the “optics”:

Sending additional troops into Afghanistan could have allowed the United States to carry out the withdrawal safely without severely disrupting military support.

No, none of this would have worked, for the Afghan army simply didn’t have a jones to destroy the Taliban. We would have been propping up the regime and the military forever.

Reader Scott sent me a link to an article, adding, “unfortunately, the article is from FOX but is accurately reporting on the nonsense.” What’s the nonsense? It this article:

I don’t quite get it. If you feed your infant via lactation, you are doing so through your breasts, whether you be a cis-woman or a transman. Why change the language? Likewise, what’s wrong with “breast milk”?

Vaccination or termination? As the Washington Post reports, a number of nurses and other staff at Winchester Valley Medical Center in Winchester, Virginia, have quit their jobs rather than obey their employer’s mandate that they get the coronavirus vaccination. Here’s a picture of some of the unemployed chowderheads.

And a quote:

“We are not ‘anti-vax,’ ” said Brittany Watson, a behavioral health nurse at the Winchester hospital, who started a group called the Valley Health Workers Association to rally others opposed to the vaccine mandate. “We’ve done all the vaccines that you get when you grow up — but those have been around for decades. But this one, there’s so much propaganda around it. It doesn’t make any sense.”


I enjoyed this NYT article on woolly mammoth tusks. (The species went extinct about 10,000 years ago, roughly when “civilization” began.) Though the substantive information the article reports is thin, the methodology was fascinating. Mammoth tusks have daily rings, and you can tell what a mammoth was eating by doing isotope analysis of shavings from the tusks. (The mammoth must be found where it actually lived.) What they discovered is that the mammoth, named Kik, ate grass (surprise!), but ate less as it got older, so it may have starved to death, perhaps because of tge unavailability of forage. Kik died at 28, characterized as “middle age for a mammoth”, and appeared to migrate seasonally, though how they deduced that isn’t told.

This is not really funny, and could have been worse, but yet is a new argument against having guns (click on screenshot from the AP site):

The skinny:

A Wisconsin woman accidentally shot a friend while using the laser sight on a handgun to play with a cat, authorities said.

A criminal complaint charging the 19-year-old woman with negligent use of a weapon said she was visiting a Kenosha apartment on Tuesday afternoon where a 21-year-old man had brought a handgun.

The woman, who a witness said had been drinking, picked up the handgun, “turned on the laser sight and was pointing it at the floor to get the cat to chase it,” when the gun went off, the complaint filed Thursday said.

The man, who was standing in a doorway, was shot in the thigh, authorities said. He left and went into another apartment, where police found him after responding to a 911 call, the Kenosha News reported.

Do not try this at home. You could also shoot the cat!

Finally, today’s reported Covid-19 death toll in the U.S. is 621,228, an increase of 662 deaths over yesterday’s figure. The reported world death toll is now 4,375,870, an increase of about 9,300 over yesterday’s total.

Stuff that happened on August 16 includes:

  • 1792 – Maximilien de Robespierre presents the petition of the Commune of Paris to the Legislative Assembly, which demanded the formation of a revolutionary tribunal.
  • 1858 – U.S. President James Buchanan inaugurates the new transatlantic telegraph cable by exchanging greetings with Queen Victoria of the United Kingdom. However, a weak signal forces a shutdown of the service in a few weeks.
  • 1896 – Skookum Jim MasonGeorge Carmack and Dawson Charlie discover gold in a tributary of the Klondike River in Canada, setting off the Klondike Gold Rush.

Here’s a famous picture from the Gold Rush, “Klondikers carrying supplies ascending the Chilkoot Pass, 1898.”

The 50th anniversary stamp, which is a nice one. Postage has increased elevenfold in the U.S. since 1966.

  • 1920 – The congress of the Communist Party of Bukhara opens. The congress would call for armed revolution.
  • 1927 – The Dole Air Race begins from Oakland, California, to Honolulu, Hawaii, during which six out of the eight participating planes crash or disappear.

Here are the planes waiting to take off. Only two made it to Hawaii; as Wikipedia notes, ” In all, before, during, and after the race, ten lives were lost and six airplanes were lost or damaged beyond repair.”

A diagram of the disasters:

And here it is! (The frog sounds like a duck.)

Here it is, and not a swimsuit in sight:

The walk-off (it lasted 7 years) was not just a strike, but a general protest against oppression and confiscation of lands of the indigenous people. Here’s the song, “From Little Things Big Things Grow“:

  • 2020 – The enormous August Complex fire in California is reported on this day. It burned more than one million acres of land.

Well, now we have the Dixie Fire, whose name is offensive and should be changed to “Big Fire.”

Notables born on this day include:

  • 1815 – John Bosco, Italian priest and educator (d. 1888)
  • 1862 – Amos Alonzo Stagg, American baseball player and coach (d. 1965)

Stagg coached for forty years at the University of Chicago (1892-1932), with two undefeated seasons, and our football field used to be named after him. Here he is in 1899:

  • 1888 – T. E. Lawrence, British colonel, diplomat, writer and archaeologist (d. 1935)

Here’s Lawrence with his allies, labeled “T.E. Lawrence (right) at Akaba with Damascene Nesib el Bekri (center), who was part of the original band that set forth to capture the strategic port.”

  • 1913 – Menachem Begin, Belarusian-Israeli politician, Prime Minister of Israel, Nobel Prize laureate (d. 1992)
  • 1920 – Charles Bukowski, German-American poet, novelist, and short story writer (d. 1994)’

I think of Bukowski as a low-rent Hunter Thompson, but you have to hand it to him: he loved cats and even wrote a book about them, which I have and like. As for his other writing, I don’t care for it.

  • 1929 – Bill Evans, American pianist and composer (d. 1980)

Those whose life drew to an end  on August 16 include:

  • 1678 – Andrew Marvell, English poet and author (b. 1621)

Here’s Marvell’s best poem.

  • 1705 – Jacob Bernoulli, Swiss mathematician and theorist (b. 1654)
  • 1938 – Robert Johnson, American singer-songwriter and guitarist (b. 1911)
  • 1948 – Babe Ruth, American baseball player and coach (b. 1895)

The Bambino was always a natty dresser. Here he is with his daughter, Julia Ruth Stevens

Photo: New York Times
  • 1977 – Elvis Presley, American singer, guitarist, and actor (b. 1935)
  • 2002 – Abu Nidal, Palestinian terrorist leader (b. 1937)

Nidal, whose real name was Sabri Khalil al-Banna, was involved in all manner of odious terrorist plots. The founder of Fatah, his organizations were responsible for the deaths of hundreds of innocent people. Here’s a rare photo of the man, who either committed suicide or was shot by Saddam Hussein’s minions in 2002.

  • 2003 – Idi Amin, Ugandan field marshal and politician, 3rd President of Uganda (b. 1928)

Another bad guy, Amin was a horrible despot and a murderer, responsible for the death of roughly half a million people. He died in Saudi Arabia, where he’d fled. Here’s a brief video about his history:

  • 2019 – Peter Fonda, American actor, director, and screenwriter. (b. 1940)

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn: Hili’s being a watchcat:

A: What are you doing here?
Hili: I’m guarding the house.
In Polish:
Ja: Co tu robisz?
Hili: Pilnuję domu.

And in nearby Wloclawek, Leon is up to no good. (Malgorzata explains that “Polish words imply that Leon is not just thinking what to do next but what mischief to do next. I had no idea how to say it in English.”)

Leon: What to do?
In Polish: Co by tu zrobic?

And here is baby Kulka. Do you think she and Hili share genes?

From Stash Krod, a bad screwup in signage:

From Facebook via reader Lenora:

From Andrzej. The answers were already given!

From Masih. These women won’t be banned only from singing, but going to school and going without head coverings. That will start immediately. It’s all over for the women of Afghanistan—in fact, it’s all over for everyone who doesn’t want to be controlled by a medieval theocracy.

The Prez makes an overly optimistic assessment of Afghanistan:

From Barry, who was astounded that these creatures even exist (he should see a fennec!). The link takes you to the Wikipedia article on Otocyon megalotis), a denizen of the savannas in eastern and southern Africa.

From Ginger K. I wonder if people really did go to jail.

Is this goat incapacitated, or just weird? I suspect the latter. Translation from the Japanese: “Sometimes I forget to be a goat, probably because of my age.”

Seen from the Strip. But few must have seen it anyway, as they were all inside gambling (this was 1957):

Matthew’s a bit puzzled by this, since, he says, dogs greet each other by sniffing bums but don’t have a “goodbye” ceremony. But chimps and bonobos live in small groups, and so could reinforce solidarity and harmony by saying goodbye as well as hello.

Man, some kids have weird nightmares. My photo would be of a student on the way to a final exam but unable to find the room.

Saturday: Hili dialogue (and Leon monologue)

July 3, 2021 • 6:30 am

Good morning on Saturday, July 3, 2021: Sabbath for Jewish cats and National Chocolate Wafer Day (a KitKat is one example).

It’s also National Eat Beans Day, International Cherry Pit Spitting Day (the world record is 28.51 meters or 93 feet, 6 inches!), National Fried Clam Day, and American Redneck Day. And, according to Wikipedia, it’s “The start of the Dog Days according to the Old Farmer’s Almanac but not according to established meaning in most European cultures.”

Today’s Google Doodle (click on screenshot) honors the life and work of neurologist Ludwig Guttmann, born on this day in 1899 (died 1980), who pioneered sports activities for people with disabilities by founding the Stoke Mandeville Games. These evolved into the Paralympics.

Wine of the Day: This Jermann Tuninia from 2015 is an unusual Italian white wine, made from a mixture of grapes: Friulano, Picolit, Ribolla, and Malvasia. I’ve heard of only the last one. But the reviews, all emphasizing its mixture of fruity flavors, made me choose it to accompany my go-to simple meal: black beans and rice with sauteed onions and a bit of thick Greek yogurt mixed in for creaminess.  (I could have chosen a German Riesling Spätlese, but that may have been too sweet.) You don’t want a bone-dry Chardonnay for a dish like that.

It was an estimable wine, laden with fruit and not resembling any white I’ve ever had. Full-bodied, a tad off-dry, and redolent with melon and pear flavors (I have trouble detecting other fruits in wines), it was a good accompaniment for my abstemious but healthy meal.  It was not over the hill by any means. I paid thirty bucks for it, and it goes for about twice that now. Would I pay that much again? Yes, I suppose, for the experience of such an unusual wine, but this will not be a regular in my lineup as the price/value ratio is too high.

News of the Day:

After nearly twenty years, the U.S. is pulling its troops out of Afghanistan, leaving Bagram Air Base just yesterday. By September 11, according to Biden, we will be gone. And what will happen is inevitable: the Taliban will take over, and the freedoms that everyone (but especially woman and girls) have enjoyed will disappear. Will Leftists now beef that Afghanistan is an “apartheid state” when women are no longer allowed to go to school and must wear burqas? Don’t count on it!

Reader Ken tells me that yesterday that, according to the Guardian, the Supreme Court refused to hear the case of a Washington State florist who was fined $1000 for refusing to create a floral arrangement for a gay wedding. The florist, Barronelle Stutzman, apparently violated an anti-discrimination law and was ordered to henceforth make floral arrangements for gay weddings if she made them for same-sex weddings.  You may recall that the Court ruled a different way in an earlier case, allowing a cakemaker not to bake a cake for a gay wedding because it violated the baker’s religion. From Ken:

In Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, the Court dodged the issue of civil rights laws vs. the Free Exercise Clause by deciding the case on the very narrow grounds that the Colorado Civil Rights Commission had employed the wrong standard in determining what constituted “religious neutrality.”

In this case, Arlene’s Flowers, Inc. v. Washington, the Court decided not to open that can of worms (or cakes or flowers) again. I was happily surprised to see that Amy Coney Barrett didn’t jump at the chance to join with other rightwingers to vote to take the case. It means the Ninth Circuit’s decision compelling the florist to provide her services to the gay couple stands.
And when I asked him why he was “happily surprised” by her decision, he replied that Barrett probably does want to use religious freedom to quash gay rights, but that this may have not been the right case:

There’s some speculation that Justice Barrett’s decision not to vote to grant cert was motivated by her desire to await the perfect case in which to rule for religious freedom over gay rights — or by her concern that the lawyers for the homophobic Alliance for Defending Freedom were not up to the task of presenting the case in its best light. See this tweet:

The WaPo has an analysis how three Justices: Coney Barrett, Roberts, and Kavanaugh, are moving the Court towards the right, though slowly and cautiously. But is this news? We are doomed until past my lifetime to have our laws interpreted by a bunch of religious conservatives.

Here are the results from my “Will Trump go to jail” contest in yesterday’s Hili Dialogue. By a large majority, people think Trump will never do the perp walk:

Finally, today’s reported Covid-19 death toll in the U.S. is 604,629, an increase of 230 deaths over yesterday’s figure. The reported world death toll is now 3,981,135,, an increase of about 8,800 over yesterday’s total.

Stuff that happened on July 3 includes:

The Army, first commanded by Washington, lasted from 1775-1783.

  • 1819 – The Bank for Savings in the City of New-York, the first savings bank in the United States, opens.
  • 1863 – American Civil War: The final day of the Battle of Gettysburg culminates with Pickett’s Charge.

Under Robert E. Lee’s orders, 12,500 Confederate soldiers charged Meade’s Union army over an open field. It was a disaster: the Confederates were repulsed with more than 50% casualties. This has been described as the high-water mark of the Confederacy, and from then on it was downhill to defeat. Here’s a picture of a Union gun that repelled the charge:

(From Wikipedia): “A gun and gunners that repulsed Pickett’s Charge” (from The Photographic History of the Civil War). This was Andrew Cowan’s 1st New York Artillery Battery.
  • 1884 – Dow Jones & Company publishes its first stock average.
  • 1886 – Karl Benz officially unveils the Benz Patent-Motorwagen, the first purpose-built automobile.

And here it is; only 25 were manufactured:

Here’s that reunion, with the graybeards shaking hands:

(From Wikipedia): Now the “Friendly” Angle One of the most affecting sights witnessed during the present reunion of Confederate and Federal veterans at Gettysburg is depicted in this photograph. Across the stone wall, which marks the boundaries of the famous “Bloody Angle” where Pickett lost over 3,000 men from a force of 6,000 these old soldiers of the North and South clasped hands in fraternal affection / / International News Service, 200 William St., New York.

It’s now in Edinburgh Castle, but here it was before it was in England, and then was stolen and returned to Scotland in 1996. Queen Elizabeth was crowned sitting over this block of red sandstone.

From the Daily Fail: The artefact – also known as the Stone of Scone – was used in the inauguration of Scottish kings until 1296, when King Edward I seized it and had it built into a new throne at Westminster Abbey in London. Pictured: King Edward I’s coronation throne containing the stone
  • 2013 – Egyptian coup d’état: President of Egypt Mohamed Morsi is overthrown by the military after four days of protests all over the country calling for Morsi’s resignation, to which he did not respond. President of the Supreme Constitutional Court of Egypt Adly Mansour is declared acting president.

Notables born on this day include:

Every Fourth of July when I was a kid I’d watch the 1942 movie “Yankee Doodle Dandy,” with James Cagney playing George M. Cohan. I loved it, and Cagney’s performance was outstanding. Here’s the ending of the movie when Cohan gets a medal from FDR and then joins a parade singing Cohan’s song “Over There”.  Admit it; doesn’t it make you feel just a wee bit patriotic?

Kafka in 1906:

  • 1908 – M. F. K. Fisher, American author (d. 1992)
  • 1937 – Tom Stoppard, Czech-English playwright and screenwriter

My brush with fame at the Hay Festival, June, 2010 (later I smoked one of his cigarettes with him):

  • 1947 – Dave Barry, American journalist and author
  • 1962 – Tom Cruise, American actor and producer

Those who became the Dearly Departed on July 3 include:

  • 1904 – Theodor Herzl, Austrian journalist and playwright (b. 1860)
  • 1935 – André Citroën, French engineer and businessman, founded the Citroën Company (b. 1878)
  • 1969 – Brian Jones, English guitarist, songwriter, and producer (b. 1942)
  • 1971 – Jim Morrison, American singer-songwriter (b. 1943)

Here’s a live version of one of my favorite Doors songs (“Riders on the Storm” is up there, though I’m not as keen as others on “Light My Fire”:

And here’s Jim Morrison’s grave at Père Lachaise Cemetery in Paris (now guarded and fenced in because of vandalism and theft), photographed by me in November, 2018:

  • 2012 – Andy Griffith, American actor, singer, and producer (b. 1926)

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn: Hili and Szaron discuss their plans:

Szaron: Are we going into the forest?
Hili: No, I’m going back home.
In Polish:
Szaron: Idziemy do lasku?
Hili: Nie, ja wracam do domu.

And Leon is weary of the week:

Leon: Is it Friday yet?

In Polish: Juz piątek mamy?

Here’s a confusing sign from reader David. I believe this is what happens when your math skills are deficient:

From Bruce:

From Jesus of the Day:

Titania adds part 37 to her list of things that have been deemed racist:

Two tweets from Luana: two statues get toppled in Canada.

. . . and religion in America continues its inexorable decline:

With this tweet, reader Ken adds: “One would think that the lawyers for the guy most likely to be “Unindicted Coconspirator #1″ in the Trump Org/Weisselberg indictment had advised their client to STFU on national tv.”

One would think that the lawyers for the guy most likely to be “Unindicted Coconspirator #1” in the Trump Org/Weisselberg indictment had advised their client to STFU on national tv.

Tweets from Matthew. I had no idea that the first of July was International Polychaete Day. Here’s a lovely specimen.

Matthew sent this tweet with a link and a comment: “Here’s the site Francesca’s correspondent refers to – really quite extraordinarily bonkers.” That’s an understatement!

Now here’s an unusual find: click on the link to the article to see the beetle, which is indeed amazingly preserved in a coprolite:

Monday: Hili dialogue (and Leon monologue)

April 26, 2021 • 6:30 am

Back to another damn week: it’s Monday, April 26, 2021 and National Pretzel Day. I’ll take the big soft ones with mustard, please. It’s also Audubon Day (he was born on this day in 1785, World Intellectual Property Day, National Help a Horse Day, and Hug an Australian Day (but only if you’re both vaccinated).

Posting will be light today as I have several things I must attend to, some of them duck related

Today’s Google Doodle (click on screenshot) honors the British developmental biologist Anne McLaren, born on this day in 1927 (died 2007). Along with John Biggers, she was the first to successfully achieve in vitro fertilization in mice, which led, in the hands of later researchers. to using the same method in humans. It’s now a common way to deal with infertility.

The Barolo I reported opening and tasting yesterday, which turned out to be so-so, has improved markedly after a day in the bottle under vacuum. It’s actually quite tasty now, though not of course the equivalent of a $70 Barolo. Still, it’s one of the few reds I’ve had that has palpably improved a day after opening.

News of the Day:

Here is some remarkable video, taken from the Mars rover Perseverance, of the tiny helicopter Ingenuity’s third flight—another great success. According to NASA,

The helicopter took off at 4:31 a.m. EDT (1:31 a.m. PDT), or 12:33 p.m. local Mars time, rising 16 feet (5 meters) – the same altitude as its second flight. Then it zipped downrange 164 feet (50 meters), just over half the length of a football field, reaching a top speed of 6.6 feet per second (2 meters per second).

It then came back and settled happily where it started, as you see below:

More good news. Biden just finished his first 100 days in office and his report card—his approval rating—was pretty good, much better than Trump’s at the same time but still not as good as Obama’s. His overall rating is 54%, which CNN deems a bit below average for postwar Presidents, and yet I think Biden’s done a much better job at this point than, say, Obama.

The lower rating, I believe, reflects a greater division in the country, with Republicans determined to dislike Biden no matter what: the overall aprproval rating is 96% among Democrats and just 10% among Republicans. Take the average of those two figures, assuming a 50/50 party split in the US, and you get 53%—almost spot on.  Among different areas, the ratings were highest for Biden’s handling of the pandemic (64% approval) and the economy (52% approval). The lowest ratings were for his handling of immigration (37% approval) and gun violence (42% approval).

Here are the Oscar winners in the “Big Six” categories with the NYT reviews:

Best Picture “Nomadland”

Best Director Chloé Zhao, “Nomadland”

Best Actor Anthony Hopkins, “The Father”

Best Actress Frances McDormand, “Nomadland”

Best Supporting Actor Daniel Kaluuya, “Judas and the Black Messiah”

Best Supporting Actress Yuh-Jung Youn, “Minari”

Sadly, the Indonesian military has found the wreckage of the submarine that went missing with a crew of 53. It’s resting 3,000 feet below the surface, and is in three pieces. Clearly, nobody survived.

But more news! The President of the European Commission just announced that fully vaccinated Americans will be able to travel to the EU this summer. Exact dates for entry haven’t been announced, and I won’t want to go in the summer, but come fall . . .  well, I hope the restaurants in Paris are open. And there’s Poland, where my surrogate family and beloved Hili await, along with two cats I haven’t yet met.

India set yet another world record for Covid infections, with 349,691 new cases reported on Saturday, the fourth daily world record in a row. Reports of what’s going on there, with sick people being turned away from hospitals to die in the street, are heart-rending.

Finally, today’s reported Covid-19 death toll in the U.S. is 571,573, an increase of 707 deaths over yesterday’s figure. The reported world death toll is now 3,123,697, an increase of about 9,400 over yesterday’s total.

Stuff that happened on April 26 includes this:

  • 1564 – Playwright William Shakespeare is baptized in Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwickshire, England (date of actual birth is unknown).

Once again, here’s Shakespeare’s baptismal record, which I’ve outlined:

Here’s Booth, who was cornered by the cavalry in a barn that was then lit on fire. He was shot through the spine in the barn, and died 3 hours later after uttering, “Tell my mother that I died for my country.” He was 26.

The Picasso work painted the same year:

  • 1956 – SS Ideal X, the world’s first successful container ship, leaves Port Newark, New Jersey, for Houston, Texas.
  • 1970 – The Convention Establishing the World Intellectual Property Organization enters into force.
  • 1981 – Dr. Michael R. Harrison of the University of California, San Francisco Medical Center performs the world’s first human open fetal surgery.

“Open” fetal surgery, as opposed to other methods like endoscopic fetal surgery, involves opening the uterus and operating on the fetus directly. It’s amazing that this can be done, but it’s true. Wikipedia describes the first successful operation is described this way: “The fetus in question had a congenital hydronephrosis, a blockage in the urinary tract that caused the kidney to dangerously extend. To correct this a vesicostomy was performed by placing a catheter in the fetus to allow the urine to be released normally. The blockage itself was removed surgically after birth.”

  • 1986 – The Chernobyl disaster occurs in the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic.
  • 1989 – The deadliest known tornado strikes Central Bangladesh, killing upwards of 1,300, injuring 12,000, and leaving as many as 80,000 homeless.
  • 2018 – American comedian Bill Cosby is found guilty of sexual assault.
  • 2019 – Marvel Studios‘ blockbuster film, Avengers: Endgame, is released, becoming the highest-grossing film of all time, surpassing the previous box office record of Avatar.

Can this be true? Highest-grossing film of all time? Why not The Last Picture Show?  (Don’t answer; I already know.) The gross: $2.8 billion!

Notables born on this day include:

This is described as a photo of Audubon by Matthew Brady. Below is his painting of mallards from The Birds of America

Now Delacroix could draw cats. Here’s his 1830-1831 picture “A Young Tiger Playing With Its Mother” (“Jeune tigre jouant avec sa mère”).

Here’s Ma Rainey and her band, which you can see depicted in the movie “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom”. I rated it “very good but not great.”

  • 1889 – Ludwig Wittgenstein, Austrian-English philosopher and academic (d. 1951)
  • 1894 – Rudolf Hess, Egyptian-German politician (d. 1987)
  • 1918 – Fanny Blankers-Koen, Dutch sprinter and long jumper (d. 2004)

Blankers-Koen won four track and field gold medals (one in a relay) in the 1948 Olympics in London; she was 30. Here are all four of her performances.

  • 1933– Carol Burnett, American actress, singer, and producer
  • 1970 – Melania Trump, Slovene-American model; 47th First Lady of the United States

Those who began their Dirt Nap on April 26 include:

  • 1865 – John Wilkes Booth, American actor, assassin of Abraham Lincoln (b. 1838)
  • 1951 – Arnold Sommerfeld, German physicist and academic (b. 1868)
  • 1976 – Sidney Franklin, American bullfighter (b. 1903)

Franklin, praised by Hemingway in Death in the Afternoon, was not only an American bullfighter, but a Jewish bullfighter, perhaps the only one in history. Here’s a photo:

  • 1984 – Count Basie, American pianist, composer, and bandleader (b. 1904)

The Duke and the Count: the two best jazz bandleaders of their time. Here’s the Count with “Basie Boogie”:

  • 1989 – Lucille Ball, American model, actress, comedian, and producer (b. 1911)
  • 1999 – Jill Dando, English journalist and television personality (b. 1961)
  • 2013 – George Jones, American singer-songwriter and guitarist (b. 1931)

George Jones’s song “He Stopped Loving Her Today” was mentioned by most country greats interviewed by Ken Burns as the “most classic country song”. Here he is performing it live.

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Malgorzata explains Hili’s thoughts: “Hili is looking at the world and marvels over human folly. She finds most of it in the mass media.”

Hili: A mountain of improbability.
A: Where?
Hili: Mainly in the media.
In Polish:
Hili: Góra nieprawdopodobieństwa.
Ja: Gdzie?
Hili: Głównie w mediach.

And it’s been a long time since we had a Leon monologue, but here’s a new one:

Leon: Are we going to sleep?

In Polish: Idziemy spać?

Here’s little Kulka in a formal pose:

A cartoon from Stash Krod:

Another animal conundrum (compare it to where a giraffe should wear its tie); from Mark:

From Cole & Marmalade:

Titania McGrath finds that Newton is getting canceled because he benefited from colonialism:

Tweets from Matthew. Alternatively, perhaps they think geese can read.

A full minute of a chicken chasing a dog:

Some of these are very good; have a look at all the submissions. The second one below the first tweet is my favorite:

No human could remain intact at this depth. Cephalopods are amazing:

A fortuitous photo of the Sun. Do you know what McCarthy captured?

A good one:

Thursday: Hili dialogue (and all the Polish cats)

February 25, 2021 • 6:30 am

Welcome to Thursday, February 25, 2021: National Chocolate Covered Nut Day. Lots of food celebrations today: it’s also National Chili Day, National Clam Chowder Day, National Toast Day (in Britain, and they could have at least had “Beans on Toast” Day), and “Let’s all Eat Right” Day.  It’s also Digital Learning Day, but who wants to celebrate that?

And today, for the first time, we have pictures of all five famous Polish cats from Dobrzyn and Wloclawek. Can you name them all?

News of the Day:

News we already knew: A U.S. intelligence report expected to be released today points the finger at Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman for approving the murder of journalist and dissident Jamal Khashoggi. What will this do to U.S./Saudi relations? Little, I suspect.

Neera Tanden, Biden’s nominee to lead the Office of Management and Budget, now seems likely to be rejected by Congress. The crime: bad tweets. The NBC evening news says that the White House is investigating “other options,” and the Wall Street Journal notes this:

Over the weekend, once it became obvious that Ms. Tanden’s nomination was in serious trouble, lawmakers and aides say they saw scant evidence of an intensive campaign to salvage the pick from a team that promised to bring Capitol Hill savvy back to the West Wing.

Over the weekend, once it became obvious that Ms. Tanden’s nomination was in serious trouble, lawmakers and aides say they saw scant evidence of an intensive campaign to salvage the pick from a team that promised to bring Capitol Hill savvy back to the West Wing.

Since one Democratic Senator already said he wouldn’t vote for her, one Republican has to back her to achieve the tie that Kamala Harris would break to secure Tanden’s nomination. That doesn’t seem likely.

The Johnson & Johnson Covid vaccine, which is just a single shot and can be stored at refrigerator temperature, will soon be approved. Its efficacy is a tad less than Pfizer or Moderna jabs, but it’s highly effective against severe illness:

The vaccine had a 72 percent overall efficacy rate in the United States and 64 percent in South Africa, where a highly contagious variant emerged in the fall and is now driving most cases. The efficacy in South Africa was seven percentage points higher than earlier data released by the company.

The vaccine also showed 86 percent efficacy against severe forms of Covid-19 in the United States, and 82 percent against severe disease in South Africa. That means that a vaccinated person has a far lower risk of being hospitalized or dying from Covid-19.

. . .Prof Stephen Powis, national medical director for NHS England, who urged influencers such as Paltrow against spreading misinformation.

He said: “In the last few days I see Gwyneth Paltrow is unfortunately suffering from the effects of Covid. We wish her well, but some of the solutions she’s recommending are really not the solutions we’d recommend in the NHS.”

Now how did the punctilious Paltrow get Covid in the first place. And would she PLEASE shut her gob when it comes to health and medicine?

Speaking of the virus, Gwynnie just got chewed out by Britain’s National Health Service for her usual worthless medical advice (h/t Jez).

Gwyneth Paltrow has been urged to stop spreading misinformation by the medical director of NHS England after she suggested long Covid could be treated with “intuitive fasting”, herbal cocktails and regular visits to an “infrared sauna”.

The Hollywood star, who markets unproven new age potions on her Goop website, wrote on her latest blogpost that she caught Covid-19 early and had since suffered “long-tail fatigue and brain fog”.

But the Brits, as ever, were very polite about it:

Prof Stephen Powis, national medical director for NHS England, who urged influencers such as Paltrow against spreading misinformation.

He said: “In the last few days I see Gwyneth Paltrow is unfortunately suffering from the effects of Covid. We wish her well, but some of the solutions she’s recommending are really not the solutions we’d recommend in the NHS.”

Have a look at Gwynnie’s post (click on screenshot), in which she uses her own “detox regimen” and other “curative” stuff to sell useless and overpriced products to the credulous fools who frequent her site. Can she be stopped? And seriously, is she really on the “detox” thing?

Finally,  today’s reported Covid-19 death toll in the U.S. is 505,643, a large increase of about 3,200 deaths over yesterday’s figure  The reported world death toll stands 2,510,567, a big increase of about 12,200 deaths over yesterday’s total.

Historical news from February 25 is scant, and includes this:

  • 1336 – Four thousand defenders of Pilenai commit mass suicide rather than be taken captive by the Teutonic Knights.
  • 1836 – Samuel Colt is granted a United States patent for his revolver firearm.

Here’s that first patent (there were many more):

  • 1870 – Hiram Rhodes Revels, a Republican from Mississippi, is sworn into the United States Senate, becoming the first African American ever to sit in Congress.

Revels served for two years, and then, his appointment over, became president of a historically black college and later a preacher. Here he is:

  • 1932 – Hitler, having been stateless for seven years, obtains German citizenship when he is appointed a Brunswick state official by Dietrich Klagges, a fellow Nazi. As a result, Hitler is able to run for Reichspräsident in the 1932 election.
  • 1956 – In his speech On the Cult of Personality and Its Consequences, Nikita Khrushchev, leader of the Soviet Union, denounces Stalin.
  • 1991 – Disbandment of the Warsaw Pact at a meeting of its members in Budapest.

Notables born on this day include:

  • 1991 – Disbandment of the Warsaw Pact at a meeting of its members in Budapest.
  • 1873 – Enrico Caruso, Italian-American tenor; the most popular operatic tenor of the early 20th century and the first great recording star. (d. 1921)

Want to hear the great Caruso? Here’s a recording that’s been reconstructed. The YouTube notes say this:

This is Caruso’s performance (Nov. 7, 1909) of the aria “Il fior che avevi a me tu dato” (Bizet’s Carmen) restored by a sound engineer at the famous Lucas Film Studios using the latest digital audio computer technology.

Caruso died at only 48 from an infection. Here’s his body lying in state in the Vesuvio Hotel in Naples, August 3, 1921:

  • 1894 – Meher Baba, Indian spiritual master (d. 1969)

But don’t worry! Meher Baba is here! I have this card taped on the wall next to my desk, which I got in graduate school. Doesn’t that big grin cheer you up?

The origin of Zeppo’s name is unknown. He was the youngest of the Marx Brothers, and the last to died. He appeared in only the first five Marx Brothers movies; here’s a brief summary of his career.

  • 1917 – Anthony Burgess, English author, playwright, and critic (d. 1993)
  • 1943 – George Harrison, English singer-songwriter, guitarist and film producer; lead guitarist of The Beatles (d. 2001)

We can’t forget George; here he is with Eric Clapton and other famous musicians in 1987:

Those who ceased metabolizing on February 25 include:

  • 1723 – Christopher Wren, English architect, designed St Paul’s Cathedral (b. 1632)
  • 1957 – Bugs Moran, American mob boss (b. 1893)
  • 1975 – Elijah Muhammad, American religious leader (b. 1897)
  • 2001 – Don Bradman, Australian international cricketer; holder of world record batting average (b. 1908)

Even I know that Bradman’s seen as the greatest batsman (Americans would say “batter”) of all time. Here he is in Sydney, being carried off the field by his OPPONENTS in a chair after scoring 452, a world record at the time. (The current record is 501 runs in an innings, held by the great Brian Lara.)

I emailed my friend Andrew Berry (a cricket maven) whether “innings” was really singular, and he said “yes.” He also added this about Bradman:

But Bradman’s real claim to fame is this.  The real measure, as in baseball, of a batsman’s worth is in his batting average (per innings) at the international ‘test’ level (i.e., the highest level of the game). Here are the all time top rankings, below. [JAC: see chart below photo.] Notice that he is a quantum leap removed from all the competition. More info: He needed only 4 from his final innings to get a final average of 100, but got 0.

Andrew sent me some impenetrable cricket jargon describing Bradman’s last innings when he missed his 100 average:

And then came the Ashes Test at The Oval in 1948 that has inked his name in immortality. Overlooked for the first four Tests of the Ashes series despite England’s prolonged struggle, Hollies was included in the team for the final Test at The Oval. Ray Lindwall routed the Englishmen for 52 and Arthur Morris and Sid Barnes put on 117 in just over a couple of hours. At this juncture, Hollies got Barnes to snick one to Godfrey Evans — the moment the entire stadium was waiting for.

In walked Don Bradman, in his last Test, his approach to the wicket accompanied by deafening ovation. England captain Norman Yardley gathered his men, raised his cap and called for three cheers. Bradman took guard after shaking hands with his rival skipper. His collection of runs stood at 6,996 after 69 completed innings, at an average of 100.14.

Hollies sent down a leg-break, and Bradman went back and across to play it to Allan Watkins at silly mid-off. The next ball was the most famous googly ever bowled. It came out of the back of the hand. Bradman, drawn forward, missed it and was bowled for a duck. He famously walked back four short of 7,000 runs and an average of 100 in Test cricket.

And Sir Don briefly dilating on his triumph, which took place on January 6, 1930):

  • 2015 – Eugenie Clark, American biologist and academic; noted ichthyologist (b. 1922)

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili awaits her noms:

Hili: The kitchen is one of the best inventions of humans.
A: You may be right.
In Polish:
Hili: Kuchnia to jeden z najlepszych wynalazków człowieka.
Ja: Możesz mieć rację.

And in nearby Wloclawek, Leon chastises Mietek:

Leon: “Move over a bit!”

In Polish: Posuń się trochę!

Here are two pictures of Paulina’s kitties:

Caption: Kulka and Szaron through Paulina’s lens. (In Polish: “Kulka i Szaron w Pauliny obiektywie.”)

From Bruce:

From Nicole:

From Divy, “The Giving Cat” book for kittens:

From Charles. Boebart is of course the Official Loon of Congress who wants to carry her Glock onto the House floor.

Tweets from Matthew. I find this first one sad, and doubt that the frog can actually see:

And I’m worried about this, too: how will Mom and ducklings to the water? I asked that question below her post, but someone else answered, and unsatisfactorily!

Spiders mating; I don’t know the species.

Two black cats joined these folks for a very long walk, and even brought them a mouse (poor mouse!)

The parachute of the Perseverance rover displayed a complex code, explained a bit in the tweets below (see the thread for more information).

This isn’t a real penguin, but the explanation of the jumpers (second tweet) is sweet:

Monday: Hili dialogue (and Leon monologue)

February 22, 2021 • 6:30 am

We are predicted to have freeze-thaw cycles every day for the next week, when the temperature goes above freezing during the day but mostly below at night. What this means is ICE FORMATION on the streets and sidewalks. First, the predictions for this week in Fahrenheit and Celsius respectively:

Yesterday afternoon was warm, but then it snowed a tad last night and the temperatures dipped below freezing. When I walked out of my building door this morning, I stepped straight onto the sidewalk, my legs flew out in front of me, and I landed flat on my back. OOF!  But though I’m old, I’m also tough, and no harm was done.

The sidewalks all the way to work were covered with a thin sheet of ice; no walking on them was possible. So I hied myself into the street. The streets were covered with ice, too, but there was a thin center strip of snow where the car tires don’t touch the road and melt the snow, so I gingerly picked my way to work down that center. It’s dire today, and there will be a lot of falls and accidents.  Here’s one street.  I walked on the thin, crenulated strip of snow in the middle, for treacherous ice lay on either side.

Welcome to the new week: Monday, February 22, 2021: National Margarita Day. I like them okay, but I prefer a good daiquiri. It’s also National Sweet Potato Day, George Washington‘s Birthday, Walking the D*g Day, Be Humble Day (theologians love this one), and National Wildlife Day.

Today’s Google Doodle (click on screenshot) honors Zitkála-Šá (1876-1938; Lakota for “Red Bird”), a Native American polymath and activist. Wikipedia describes her as

. . . a Yankton Dakota writer, editor, translator, musician, educator, and political activist. She wrote several works chronicling her struggles with cultural identity and the pull between the majority culture she was educated within and her Dakota culture into which she was born and raised. Her later books were among the first works to bring traditional Native American stories to a widespread white English-speaking readership, and she has been noted as one of the most influential Native American activists of the 20th century.

Working with American musician William F. Hanson, Zitkala-Ša wrote the libretto and songs for The Sun Dance Opera (1913), the first American Indian opera. It was composed in romantic musical style, and based on Sioux and Ute cultural themes

With her violin in 1898 at 22:

News of the Day:

By now many of you have heard of the ginormous electricity bills that some Texans, who subscribed to private energy firms, have been saddled with after the winter storms. One poor schmo got a montly bill of $16,752, which was taken directly out of his bank account. That’s 200 times what he normally pays! He’s had to dip into his retirement savings to pay the bill. The mayor of Houston, one of the hardest hit cities, has called for Texas to pay these astronomical bills. That seems fair. (h/t Jez)

Preliminary investigations of the blown-out engine of United Boeing 777 plane that was trying to fly from Denver to Hawaii show that one or two fan blades might have broken off. An expert on last night’s NBC Evening News, however, says that such an event would not have caused the engine cowling to break off. In the meantime, United, the only carrier that uses this type of engine in the U.S., has grounded some of its 777s for inspection.

The New York Times, in its “movie’ section (?), has published a timeline of the Woody Allen/Mia Farrow case in which Allen was accused, years ago, of molesting his 7-year old adopted daughter Dylan. There’s never been enough evidence to convict or even try Allen, especially in light of other claims that Mia Farrow, enraged at Woody’s affair with Farrow’s adopted daughter Soon-Yi, coached Dylan with her accusation. The new timeline doesn’t add much to what we know already, and I’m not sure why the NYT is even doing this story, except that a new HBO “docuseries,” Allen v. Farrow, has been released. NPR says it paints a damning picture of Woody Allen but adds this:

What Allen v. Farrow doesn’t have: original interviews with Allen or anyone close to the family who might take his side. That includes Mia Farrow’s two children who have spoken in support of Allen — adopted son Moses Farrow, who has accused his mother of abuse, and Mia Farrow’s daughter who became Allen’s wife in 1997, Soon-Yi Previn. (The series notes that Allen and Soon-Yi didn’t respond to interview requests and Moses declined to participate.)

Finally, today’s reported Covid-19 death toll in the U.S. 498,650, an increase of about 1,200 deaths over yesterday’s figure We are likely to exceed half a million deaths within two days. The reported world death toll stands 2,479,067, an increase of about 5,600 deaths over yesterday’s total. The death rate continues to drop worldwide.

Stuff that happened on February 22 these things:

  • 1371 – Robert II becomes King of Scotland, beginning the Stuart dynasty.
  • 1632 – Ferdinando II de’ Medici, Grand Duke of Tuscany, the dedicatee, receives the first printed copy of Galileo’s Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems .
  • 1797 – The last Invasion of Britain begins near Fishguard, Wales.

The Brits who guarded the fish were ready, though, and fought off the French in two days.

  • 1819 – By the Adams–Onís Treaty, Spain sells Florida to the United States for five million U.S. dollars.
  • 1862 – Jefferson Davis is officially inaugurated for a six-year term as the President of the Confederate States of America in Richmond, Virginia. He was previously inaugurated as a provisional president on February 18, 1861.
  • 1942 – World War II: President Franklin D. Roosevelt orders General Douglas MacArthur out of the Philippines as the Japanese victory becomes inevitable.
  • 1943 – World War II: Members of the White Rose resistance, Sophie SchollHans Scholl, and Christoph Probst are executed in Nazi Germany.

See below for more information. These resisters are heroes—imagine opposing the Nazis as a German in 1943! They were caught throwing leaflets into a lobby from the floors above, and executed on the same day that the Nazi kangaroo court found them guilty.  Here are Sophia and Hans (right):

From Alabama Chainin Journal:

In February of 1943, the [White Rose group] was apprehended when leaving pamphlets in suitcases all across the University of Munich. Sophie took to a balcony that overlooked a courtyard and scattered reams of flyers as students exited classes. Her action was witnessed by the school’s janitor, who reported Sophie and Hans to the Gestapo. After being interrogated for nearly 24 hours, Sophie emerged from questioning with a broken leg but a steely spirit. She was quoted as saying, “I’ll make no bargain with the Nazis.”

The students’ hearing began a mere four days after their arrest and, because all pled guilty, they were not allowed to testify. Still, Sophie did not sit quietly throughout the proceedings. She interrupted the judge throughout, with statements like: “Somebody had to make a start! What we said and wrote are what many people are thinking. They just don’t dare say it out loud!” and “You know the war is lost. Why don’t you have the courage to face it?”

She was allowed one official statement: “Time and time again one hears it said that since we have been put into a conflicting world, we have to adapt to it. Oddly, this completely un-Christian idea is most often espoused by so-called Christians, of all people. How can we expect righteousness to prevail when there is hardly anyone who will give himself up to a righteous cause? I did the best that I could do for my nation. I therefore do not regret my conduct and will bear the consequences.” She and her fellow defendants were sentenced to death by execution, which was carried out within hours of the decision. On the back of Sophie’s indictment, she wrote the word “Freedom”. Her reported last words were, “Die Sonne scheint noch”—”The sun still shines.”

You can hear those words in the video clip below:

  • 2011 – New Zealand’s second deadliest earthquake strikes Christchurch, killing 185 people.

Notables born on this day include:

  • 1732 – George Washington, American general and politician, 1st President of the United States (d. 1799)
  • 1788 – Arthur Schopenhauer, German philosopher and author (d. 1860)

Here’s the lugubrious and pessimistic old philosopher:

  • 1819 – James Russell Lowell, American poet and critic (d. 1891)
  • 1857 – Heinrich Hertz, German physicist, philosopher, and academic (d. 1894)
  • 1892 – Edna St. Vincent Millay, American poet and playwright (d. 1950)
“My candle burns at both ends; It will not last the night; But ah, my foes, and oh, my friends— It gives a lovely light!”
  • 1914 – Renato Dulbecco, Italian-American virologist and academic, Nobel Prize laureate (d. 2012)
  • 1925 – Edward Gorey, American illustrator and poet (d. 2000)

Gorey was a well known ailurophile, and reader Jon sent a lovely photo attesting to that:

Those who began pining for the fjords on February 22 include:

Sopie Scholl and her “conspirators” Probst and brother Hans were guillotined with the day after she’d been found guilty of treason. Here’s a tribute to her from the Auschwitz Memorial (h/t Mtthew).

Here’s a fairly accurate video of her last farewell to her brother and Probst, the pronouncement of her sentence, and her immediate execution (no gore). From the movie “Sophie Scholl: The Final Days” (2005). The full film is free on YouTube. This ending is very moving.

  • 1965 – Felix Frankfurter, Austrian-American lawyer and jurist (b. 1882)
  • 1980 – Oskar Kokoschka, Austrian painter, poet and playwright (b. 1886)

Here’s Kokoshka’s “Katze” (“Cat”), 1910:

  • 1987 – Andy Warhol, American painter and photographer (b. 1928)
  • 2002 – Chuck Jones, American animator, producer, and screenwriter (b. 1912)

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili is prognosticating:

Hili: If I see correctly, tomorrow will be the next weekday.
A: It’s possible.
In Polish:
Hili: Jeśli dobrze widzę, to jutro będzie kolejny dzień tygodnia.
Ja: To jest możliwe

And in nearby Wloclawek, Leon is hibernating, which is why we haven’t had a monologue from him in a while.

Leon: Is it spring yet?

In Polish: Czyżby już wiosna?


From Barry.

From Facebook:

From Nicole:


From Titania. Coca-Cola has obviously been learning from Robin DiAngelo:

A tweet from Isabelle, who points out that this woman is worth $850 million, yet she’s kvetching about oppression by The Patriarchy:

Ginger K. asks, “Why would anybody throw a book in the trash?” Good question.

A tweet from Barry. What a great video!

Tweets from Matthew. Look at this demon cat!

I was glad to hear that the Perseverance Rover is okay and that its silence didn’t mean that something was wrong. Here’s NASA’s explanation along with some photos (one of the rover’s tire):

Look at these beautiful Mandarin ducks (Aix galericulata)—the prettiest duck species in the world. The sexual dimorphism is extreme. If you want more, go to the YouTube video.

Wednesday: Hili dialogue (and Leon and Kulka monologues)

December 30, 2020 • 6:30 am

Good morning on Wednesday, December 30, 2020. And guess what: it’s the last day of Coynezaa:—my birthday! And guess what else? I have to go to the dentist and may have to get a tooth pulled. Some fun! The end of the annus horribilis. Because of this ill-timed annoyance, posting will be light today.

But the misery is leavened by this lovely birthday drawing that Jacques Hausser made for me. Ceiling Duck!!! (Jacques studies shrews, so there’s one in there, too.)

Well, it’s a crappy food day: National Bicarbonate of Soda Day, presumably to recover from all your holiday eating. It’s Bacon Day, for those still indulging,

Today’s Google Doodle (click on screenshot) celebrates Elizabeth Peratovich (1911-1958), described by Wikipedia as

“. . . an American civil rights activist and member of the Tlingit nation who worked on behalf of equality for Alaska Natives. In the 1940s, her advocacy was credited as being instrumental in the passing of Alaska’s Anti-Discrimination Act of 1945, the first anti-discrimination law in the United States.”

News of the Day:

We have two waterfowl stories today, both about bird love. This first one is sad, and comes from the Guardian. It’s about a swan mourning for its dead mate (h/t: Jez):

Police and firefighters in Germany were forced to intervene to move an apparently “mourning” swan that was blocking a high-speed railway line, according to a statement released by the rescuers on Monday.

The swan was pictured blocking the line near Fuldatal, causing at least 20 trains to be cancelled, after a second swan was killed when it flew into the overhead line above the tracks.

After the accident the second swan settled on the railway tracks below, preventing trains from passing on the route from Kassel to Göttingen. According to reports in local media, firefighters brought in specialist equipment to remove the dead swan from the overhead lines and the second swan from the tracks, taking it to the Fulda river where it was released.

This almost brings tears to my eyes. And here’s a photo:

Reader Jeremy pointed me to a story about another beautiful but errant Mandarin duck drake (Aix galericulata), this one in a pond near Cincinnati. (If you recall, a Mandarin showed up in the Central Park pond last winter.)  But the Ohio drake seems to be in love with a mallard hen, and the species aren’t all that closely related (their common ancestor lived about 20 million years ago).  Reader Jeremy went to see the duck, snapped a photo of the drake and his would-be paramour, and said this:

I stopped by and took a couple of pictures from my phone last week. Thought you might be interested. Beautiful bird indeed!

Matthew tweeted this, and it looks like the new UK coronavirus mutant really is spreading much faster that the “normal” one:

The first isolate of this mutant has now been identified in the U.S.—in a Colorado man in his twenties with no recent travel history.

Yesterday, Republican congressman-elect Luke Letlow, only 41, died from complications of coronavirus. There will be a special election to fill his seat.

Finally, today’s reported Covid-19 death toll in the U.S. is 338,767, a huge increase of about 3,600 deaths from yesterday’s figure, equivalent to 2.5 deaths per minute. The world death toll is 1,799,076, another big increase of about 15,500 over yesterday’s total and representing about 10.8 deaths per minute from Covid-19—more than one every 6 seconds.

Stuff that happened on December 30; pickings are slim!

  • 1066 – Granada massacre: A Muslim mob storms the royal palace in Granada, crucifies Jewish vizier Joseph ibn Naghrela and massacres most of the Jewish population of the city.
  • 1890 – Following the Wounded Knee Massacre, the United States Army and Lakota warriors face off in the Drexel Mission Fight.
  • 1916 – Russian mystic and advisor to the Tsar Grigori Yefimovich Rasputin was murdered by a loyalist group led by Prince Felix Yusupov. His frozen, partially-trussed body was discovered in a Moscow river three days later.

The postmortemrumors were that he had been almost impossible to kill, but we don’t really know what happened with a group of nobleman, worried about Rasputin’s influence over the Czar, decided to murder him. Here he is with his wife and daughter Matryona (Maria) in his St. Petersburg apartment in 1911. Matryona later moved to the U.S. where she became a riveter and a circus performer, and died in 1977. 


  • 1922 – The Union of Soviet Socialist Republics is formed.
  • 2006 – Former President of Iraq Saddam Hussein is executed.

Notables born on this day include:

  • AD 39 – Titus, Roman emperor (probable; d. 81)
  • 1865 – Rudyard Kipling, Indian-English author and poet, Nobel Prize laureate (d. 1936)

Kipling and his family lived in Vermont for several years, where he began The Jungle Books(a great favorite of Matthew). Here’s Kipling in his study at Naulakha, Vermont in 1895:

  • 1910 – Paul Bowles, American composer and author (d. 1999)
  • 1928 – Bo Diddley, American singer-songwriter and guitarist (d. 2008)
  • 1931 – Skeeter Davis, American singer-songwriter (d. 2004)
  • 1935 – Sandy Koufax, American baseball player and sportscaster
  • 1945 – Davy Jones, English singer-songwriter and actor (d. 2012)
  • 1946 – Patti Smith, American singer-songwriter and poet
  • 1949 – Jerry Coyne, American biologist and author.

Here’s Coyne in the Karni Mata “Rat Temple” in Deshnoke, India.  In the rear are some of the thousands of resident rats, drinking a sacred offering of cream.

  • 1959 – Tracey Ullman, English-American actress, singer, director, and screenwriter
  • 1965 – Heidi Fleiss, American procurer
  • 1975 – Tiger Woods, American golfer

Those who kicked the bucket on December 30 include:

  • 1916 – Grigori Rasputin, Russian mystic (b. 1869) [see above]
  • 1979 – Richard Rodgers, American playwright and composer (b. 1902)
  • 2006 – Saddam Hussein, Iraqi general and politician, 5th President of Iraq (b. 1937)

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, I got special birthday greetings from Hili!

Hili: Is a birthday an adaptation?
A: Probably not. Why do you think it is?
Hili: Gifts help survival. Happy Birthday, Jerry!
In Polish:
Hili: Czy urodziny są adaptacją?
Ja: Chyba nie, dlaczego tak sądzisz?
Hili: Prezenty pomagają przetrwać. Happy Birthday, Jerry!
And I’m told that Szaron wishes me a happy birthday in his “shy and silent way”:

Happily, we have our first Kulka monologue: she got so excited that she finally spoke!

Kulka: A new cardboard box!

Kulka: Nowy karton!

In nearby Wlocawek, Leon also has a few words to say (unlike Mietek, he likes the holidays and parties).

Leon: My place for the New Year’s Eve party
In Polish: Moja miejscówka na sylwestra

From Stephen, who says, “A vivid example of the law of the excluded middle.” I like it, though. 

A cat mugshot from John:

An old cartoon from Sarah:

From Titania:  This is an actual poster from the strike at Bryn Mawr College. It was posted in the Science Building on November 9 of this year.

From Simon, a good XKCD cartoon:

Tweets from Matthew, who points out: “Alfred Russel Wallace falls even further. After spiritualism and human specialness, he became an anti-vaxxer.” The story is a bit more complicated, as doctors were exaggerating the effiacy of vaccination back then.

They need to get these individuals together:

This is sad and sweet at the same time.


Pandemic albatrosses:


Tuesday: Hili dialogue (and Leon monologue)

December 29, 2020 • 6:30 am

It’s Tuesday, the Cruelest day: December 29, 2020: the fifth day of Coynezaa, the fifth day of Christmas, and the fourth day of Kwanzaa (United States). It’s not a food holiday but the end of one: National “Get on the Scales Day”. (Hili is going to the vet soon as she’s gotten too fat.) It’s also National Pepper Pot Day, celebrating a soup that in its authentic version has tripe in it. I’ve tried tripe at least twice, and couldn’t abide it either time. I will not try it again.

Wine of the Day: This lovely Argentinian Torrontés, drunk with chicken, was a bit old for this grape, and I could tell that oxidation was beginning to set in. But it was still a decent tipple, smelling for all the world like candied grapefruit peel. Torrontés can be a great white wine when you find a good specimen, and it’s not at all expensive. Just drink it fairly young.

News of the Day:

Yesterday the House of Representatives voted 322-87 to override Trump’s veto of the defense spending bill (note: this is not the pandemic relief bill!). If the Senate also votes to override, which is not certain, it would be the first time Congress had repudiated a veto.  One of his big objections to the bill was its call to change the name of military bases named after Confederate generals.

By now most Americans know that Trump gave in and signed the pandemic relief bill on Sunday. Yesterday the House passed a bill increasing the checks given to many Americans from the $600 specified in the original bill to $2000.  But this won’t happen until the Senate also approves the measure, and it’s not clear when this will happen.

This is a dog-bites-man story from Saudi Arabia, which seems to get much less flak than Israel despite its much more oppressive behavior. Right now the murderous ruler Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who probably gave the go-ahead for the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, is busy cracking down on protests and anti-theocratic activism. Yesterday a Saudi court sentenced Loujain al-Hathloul, 31 years old and a well known women’s rights activist, to six years in prison.  (al-Hathoul was an influential figure in campaigning for, and winning, Saudi women’s right to drive.) The charge was “terrorism-related” according to her family, but prosecutors presented no evidence for terrorism or anything like it. She was prosecuted solely for activism. Given that she’s already been in prison for several years, and that some of the sentence was suspended—prosecutors wanted twenty years!—she could be out in six months.  Her sister alleges that she was tortured after being arrested and jailed in 2018.

Here’s a short video report:


Aunt Becky is out of jail, having served two months for the CollegeGate scandal.

Reader Christopher informs us that not only the Guardian has horoscopes, but also Canada’s Globe and Mail. Click if you want your prognostication for 2001:

But it’s just harmless fun, right?—even though people spend billions of dollars a year consulting these fraudulent people and their pages, and it buttresses faith and superstition.

Finally, today’s reported Covid-19 death toll in the U.S. is 335,141, an increase of about 1,900 above yesterday’s figure, and about 1.3 deaths per minute. The world death toll is 1,783,597, an increase of about 10,100 over yesterday’s total and representing about 7 deaths per minute from Covid-19—one every 9 seconds.

Stuff that happened on December 29 includes:

Here’s the site of Becket’s killing, carried out by four knights after Becket pissed off King Henry. The caption is from Wikipedia:

Sculpture and altar marking the spot of Thomas Becket’s martyrdom, Canterbury Cathedral. The sculpture by Giles Blomfeld represents the knights’ four swords (two metal swords with reddened tips and their two shadows).
  • 1845 – In accordance with International Boundary delimitation, the United States annexes the Republic of Texas, following the manifest destiny doctrine. The Republic of Texas, which had been independent since the Texas Revolution of 1836, is thereupon admitted as the 28th U.S. state.
  • 1890 – Wounded Knee Massacre on Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, 300 Lakota are killed by the United States 7th Cavalry Regiment.

A picture of the dead Native Americans being put in a common grave:

A signed British first edition of this book will run you about $138,700. Here’s one:

  • 1937 – The Irish Free State is replaced by a new state called Ireland with the adoption of a new constitution.
  • 1940 – World War II: In the Second Great Fire of London, the Luftwaffe fire-bombs London, England, killing almost 200 civilians.
  • 1989 – Czech writer, philosopher and dissident Václav Havel is elected the first post-communist President of Czechoslovakia.
  • 2003 – The last known speaker of Akkala Sami dies, rendering the language extinct.

The language, one of the Sámi languages, was spoken in only three villages of the Kola Peninsula in Russia.  Here’s an introduction to the 10 Sámi languages. There’s another that has only two native speakers.

Notables born on this day include:

  • 1800 – Charles Goodyear, American chemist and engineer (d. 1860)
  • 1808 – Andrew Johnson, American general and politician, 17th President of the United States (d. 1875)
  • 1809 – William Ewart Gladstone, English lawyer and politician, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom (d. 1898)
  • 1876 – Pablo Casals, Catalan cellist and conductor (d. 1973)
  • 1936 – Mary Tyler Moore, American actress and producer (d. 2017)

Here’s Rob and Laura Petrie (Dick Van Dyke and Mary Tyler Moore) doing a number of the Dick Van Dyke Show. She was criticized for wearing Capri pants on the show (back then, women in sitcoms wore dresses), but she started a fashion.

  • 1943 – Rick Danko, Canadian singer-songwriter, bass player, and producer (d. 1999)
  • 1947 – Ted Danson, American actor and producer

Those who took the Big Nap on December 29 include:

  • 1170 – Thomas Becket, English archbishop and saint (b. 1118)
  • 1894 – Christina Rossetti, English poet and hymn-writer (b. 1830)

Rossetti in her late twenties:

by (George) Herbert Watkins, albumen print, late 1850s
  • 1926 – Rainer Maria Rilke, Austrian poet and author (b. 1875)
  • 1986 – Harold Macmillan, English captain and politician, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom (b. 1894)
  • 2004 – Julius Axelrod, American biochemist and academic, Nobel Prize laureate (b. 1912)

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili is again wheedling for noms (like hobbits, many Poles do eat “second breakfasts”):

Hili: Breakfast is the most important meal of the day.
A: And then?
Hili: And then the second breakfast.
In Polish:
Hili: Śniadanie to najważniejszy posiłek dnia.
Ja: A potem?
Hili: A potem drugie śniadanie.

Little Kulka, hated by Hili, licks her paw:

And in nearby Wloclawek, housemates Leon and Mietek differ about the holidays. Mietek loves them, but Leon clearly doesn’t:

Leon: Such a hassle this holidays is!
In Polish: Zawracanie głowy z tymi świętami.


From Divy. Can you name the television game show that inspired this cartoon?

From Irena:

From Jesus of the Day: it’s all in the jingle bell, I guess.

From Matthew Cobb as well as Barry.  Richard issued the tweet below and got tons of pushback. There were jocular comments but a lot of stuff that, were I to receive it, would seem hurtful. I didn’t understand it; my view is that of Barry, who said this:

I don’t understand why this has been getting so much traction on Twitter or why people are so bothered by it. As this person tweeted: “Are people so churlish not to see that Richard Dawkins was creating a funny image to make a point about how he thinks spiders are under-appreciated?”

That’s true, and if you want to see all the people who made fun of this tweet, go over and have a look. I can attribute it only to the nastiness that Twitter evokes, and to the fact that people have a mysterious animus against Dawkins.

Tweets from Matthew. First, the world’s most beautiful duck:

I used to have an aquarium full of hissers as a grad student, and would horrify visitor by making them hiss:

This is a good person. (Sound up.)

A brilliant new Canadian sport:

Do read this article. It describes a genetic condition in which the fingerprints aren’t formed (they don’t mention toeprints). There are no bad medical side effects, but there are severe social side effects: these poor people can’t use smartphones and can’t get passports or driver’s licenses.

A map of the rabbits of North America. I’m guessing that a lot of the cottontail “species,” which live in geographic isolation from others, don’t really deserve the status of distinct species.

I broke my own rule and criticized this anti-athiest post on Twitter, but the best response is, “This isn’t atheism’s job. It’s just non-belief in gods, for crying out loud!”

Thursday: Hili dialogue (and Leon monologue)

December 17, 2020 • 6:30 am

Good morning on another chilly day: Thursday, December 17, 2020. It’s National Maple Syrup Day, and here’s a tip from one who loves the stuff.  Maple syrup used to be graded A, B, or C, depending on how much flavor they took out of it (C, the darkest kind, was the best). Now it’s ALL grade A, but they have substituted adjectives describing the categories. Always get the “very dark color, strong taste” kind; it’s not only the cheapest, but also the best. (The “dark color, robust taste” is less intense.) This is getting harder to find, but is well worth the search; here’s an example from Amazon.

It’s also Wright Brothers Day, celebrating their first successful flight on December 17, 1903, and Pan American Aviation Day.

Wine of the Day: Forget the chardonnay and pinot grigio: there’s better value for money—and nicer wines— in sauvignon blanc and chenin blanc. This bottle of  2019 Matetic EQ sauvignon blanc, from Chile, is one of the finest specimens I’ve had at any price, and was under $15. Used to wash down a chicken dinner, it was a tad off-dry and had a lot more citrus in the aroma than the classic “grassy” nose customarily described for this grape. A very complex and powerful aroma leaps at you from the glass, urging you to have another. If you can get this, do so; it’s drinking very well.

News of the Day:

It’s been almost six years since the terrorist attack on the Charlie Hebdo office in Paris, and, finally, the trial of the accused has concluded. All fourteen defendants were found guilty of criminal conspiracy or terrorist complicity, though the two shooters were killed shortly after the 2015 attack. The heaviest sentence was given to one defendant who provided weapons to the shooters: 30 years in prison with a minimum of 20 years before the possibility of parole.

And French President Emmanuel Macron has tested positive for Covid-19 after showing symptoms. He’ll isolate himself for a week but still plans to work remotely.

And remember, this astronomical conjunction is TONIGHT:

Nabisco has announced the upcoming release of a new flavor of Oreo to celebrate the release of Lady Gaga’s new album, “Chromatica”, the new cookie announced by Gaga herself (below). The NYT describes the diversity of Oreo flavors, whose avowed purpose is not to make a profit but to keep attention on their classic brown-and-white cookie:

Since releasing the Birthday Cake Oreo in 2012 to celebrate the 100th anniversary of its signature cookie, Oreo has introduced 65 flavors, including, in the last three years alone, Hot Chicken Wing Oreos, Wasabi Oreos, Crispy Tiramisù Oreos and Carrot Cake Oreos. (Certain flavors are only available in specific markets; the Wasabi and Hot Chicken Wing Oreos were released in China.)

Over the years, there have been Blueberry Pie Oreos; Waffle & Syrup Oreos; Jelly Donut Oreos; Mississippi Mud Pie Oreos; Key Lime Pie Oreos; Piña Colada Oreo Thins; Banana Split Oreos; PB&J Oreos; Root Beer Float Oreos; Neapolitan Oreos; Peeps Oreos; and “Mystery Oreos,” which were eventually revealed to be churro flavored.

I’ve tried several of these novelty flavors, including carrot cake (meh), mint (ok), and peanut butter (ok, but not as good as mnt), but the only one I really liked were the green tea Oreos, a package of which was sent by a kind reader in Japan.

Here’s Gaga touting Oreos (oy!):

Has Trump’s insanity been any more evident than now, when he’s continuously tweeting about the “stolen” election? Even Mitch “666” McConnell—and an increasing number of Republicans—admit that Joe Biden won.


Finally, today’s reported Covid-19 death toll in the U.S. is 307,295, a big increase of about 3,400 from yesterday’s figure, with deaths occurred at about 2.4 per minute. The world death toll is 1,657,385, a huge increase of about 13,400 over yesterday’s report—about 9.3 people dying per minute.

Stuff that happened on December 17 includes:

  • 497 BC – The first Saturnalia festival was celebrated in ancient Rome.
  • 1790 – The Aztec calendar stone is discovered at El Zócalo, Mexico City.

Made between 1502 and 1521, the stone isn’t really a calendar. The excellent Wikipedia entry says this:

The sculpted motifs that cover the surface of the stone refer to central components of the Mexica cosmogony. The state-sponsored monument linked aspects of Aztec ideology such as the importance of violence and warfare, the cosmic cycles, and the nature of the relationship between gods and man. The Aztec elite used this relationship with the cosmos and the bloodshed often associated with it to maintain control over the population, and the sun stone was a tool in which the ideology was visually manifested.

I saw this remarkable stone in 2012 when I visited the fabulous National Anthropology Museum in Mexico City. I wasn’t allowed to take photos, so here’s one from Wikipedia:

  • 1862 – American Civil War: General Ulysses S. Grant issues General Order No. 11, expelling Jews from parts of Tennessee, Mississippi, and Kentucky.

WTF? Ulysses S. Grant expelled the Jews from the South???? Wikipedia says this:

General Order No. 11 was a controversial order issued by Union Major-General Ulysses S. Grant on December 17, 1862, during the Vicksburg Campaign, that took place during the American Civil War. The order expelled all Jews from Grant’s military district, comprising areas of Tennessee, Mississippi, and Kentucky. Grant issued the order in an effort to reduce Union military corruption, and stop an illicit trade of Southern cotton, which Grant thought was being run “mostly by Jews and other unprincipled traders.”

The “running the world” trope never ends.

Here’s a remarkable photo of the first flight (there were three that day): the plane went 120 feet in 12 seconds. Orville is at the controls, while Wilbur runs alongside. The first flight captured on film! And 65 years later the Concorde was flying!

  • 1933 – The first NFL Championship Game is played. The game was at Wrigley Field between the New York Giants and Chicago Bears. The Bears won 23–21.
  • 1938 – Otto Hahn discovers the nuclear fission of the heavy element uranium, the scientific and technological basis of nuclear energy.

Hahn won the Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 1944, but, since he was a German in custody of the British when the prize was awarded the next year, couldn’t give his lecture. He did so in 1946.  His collaborator, Lise Meitner, a Jew who had fled to Sweden, should have shared that prize.

  • 1944 – World War II: Battle of the Bulge: Malmedy massacre: American 285th Field Artillery Observation Battalion POWs are shot by Waffen-SS Kampfgruppe Joachim Peiper.
  • 1989 – The Simpsons premieres on television with the episode “Simpsons Roasting on an Open Fire“.

Here’s that first episode:

  • 2014 – The United States and Cuba re-establish diplomatic relations after severing them in 1961.

Notables born on this day include:

  • 1778 – Humphry Davy, English chemist and physicist (d. 1829)
  • 1853 – Pierre Paul Émile Roux, French physician and immunologist, co-founded the Pasteur Institute (d. 1933)
  • 1908 – Willard Libby, American chemist and academic, Nobel Prize laureate (d. 1980).

Libby got the Prize for developing radiocarbon dating, and he did so at The University of Chicago. Here he is at the U of C:

  • 1936 – Pope Francis
  • 1987 – Chelsea Manning, American soldier and intelligence analyst

Those who made their final exit on December 17 include:

  • 1830 – Simón Bolívar, Venezuelan general and politician, 2nd President of Venezuela (b. 1783)
  • 1833 – Kaspar Hauser, German feral child (b. 1812)

Well, he wasn’t a feral child, and his own story is full of holes. Still, it’s worth reading about Hauser.

Before she wrote books, Sayers worked in advertising, and she wrote this jingle for Guinness:

Why did an Irish stout use a toucan as advertising? You can read the story here.

  • 2008 – Sammy Baugh, American football player and coach (b. 1914)
  • 2011 – Kim Jong-il, North Korean commander and politician, 2nd Supreme Leader of North Korea (b. 1941)
  • 2012 – Daniel Inouye, American captain and politician (b. 1924)
  • 2013 – Janet Rowley, American geneticist and biologist (b. 1925)

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Today’s Hili dialogue also needs an explanation from Malgorzata. “Hili sees her reflection in the window. So she talks about illusions. When Andrzej doesn’t want to approve of her very general statement she demands food for herself and for her reflection – if it’s not an illusion, the other cat should get food as well.”

Hili: The world is full of illusions.
A: Don’t exaggerate.
Hili: Fill the bowl for both of us.
In Polish:
Hili: Świat jest pełen iluzji.
Ja: Nie przesadzaj.
Hili: Napełnij miseczki dla nas obu.

And in nearby Wloclawek, Leon comments on a Polish tradition. Malgorzata explains: “Before Christmas, all proper women are cleaning their houses from top to bottom or the other way around. It’s as if they expected a sanitary inspector instead of family and friends.”

Leon: Oh, all this cleaning!

In Polish: Ach, te porządki!

From Facebook (perhaps from a reader, but I’ve no record):

A meme from Nicole:

From the Internet:


Yes, Titania’s irony is over the top on this tweet, but the renaming of Abraham Lincoln High School is real. In fact, San Francisco is renaming 44 of its 125 public schools, including those bearing the names of Thomas Edison, Herbert Hoover and—Dianne Feinstein, the latter because when she was mayor of S.F. 36 years ago, she allowed the Confederate flag to fly over City Hall. Cancel her IMMEDIATELY!

From Simon, who wonders if this is a real video. So do I!

From Barry: I’ll be damned if this cat isn’t enjoying the bovid tongue bath:

Tweets from Matthew. Look at this mimic! It is likely a Batesian mimic, repelling predators because it resembles a bumble bee, but it could be a Müllerian mimic if the beetle is toxic and the predator has learned to avoid both convergently evolved warning patterns.

I don’t think the analogy is really good here, as an empty bottle is useless, but one can reread books you’ve already read and benefit from it:

Talk about stealing the joy from Christmas!

Beautiful metro stations, with many in the thread. Only one in the US and none in the UK, though!

Sunday: Hili dialogue (and Leon monologue)

December 6, 2020 • 6:30 am

It’s the end of the week as we know it—formally, though, the beginning of the week. Yes, it’s Sunday, December 6, 2020: National Gazpacho Day. It’s also National Microwave Day and St. Nicholas Day, the day when, in Europe, kids get presents placed in their shoes, stockings, or under their pillows. (By the way, it’s only 19 shopping days until the beginning of Coynezaa, and 24 until its end.)

News of the Day:

Yesterday the Devil went down to Georgia, ostensibly to help elect two Republican Senators from that state. But instead of stumping for them, the President-Eject spent most of his time claiming that he’d won the election and beefing about rigged votes. He will not go gentle into that good (for us) night, and of course we have to pay for his Secret Service protection for the rest of his life. 

The Washington Post has a survey of Republicans’ views about who won the election (h/t: Linda). It’s depressing but not surprising. Two figures tell the tale (note the number of cowardly Republicans!).  The buggers won’t answer!

ArtNet News has an article and a lot of fantastic photos of the recently-discovered series of ancient paintings covering seven miles of rock face in remote areas of the Amazon rain forest. They’re dated to about 12,500 years ago, not long after humans migrated to the area after their ancestors crossed the Bering Strait from Siberia. Here are a few photos of the paintings, some of which show extinct Ice Age creatures like giant sloths and mastodons.  (h/t Jon):

Matthew went sown to Cambridge yesterday to pick up one of his daughters at Cambridge Uni. He sent two lovely pictures of the town, which I’ve visited only once. The first is of Newnham College, where his daughter goes to school. I haven’t seen a punt before, but it looks like the second photo shows them. Punting on the Cam! I wonder if what applies in Oggsford applies here (my poem):

You have to be a don
To set foot on the lawn.


Finally, today’s reported Covid-19 death toll in the U.S. is 281,202, a big increase of about 2,200 from yesterday’s figure, representing about 1.5 Americans dying per minuteThe world death toll is 1,535,979, a huge increase of about 9,500 over yesterday’s report—about 6.6 deaths per minute, or more than a death every ten seconds.  

Stuff that happened on December 6 includes:

  • 1534 – The city of Quito in Ecuador is founded by Spanish settlers led by Sebastián de Belalcázar.
  • 1790 – The U.S. Congress moves from New York City to Philadelphia.
  • 1884 – The Washington Monument in Washington, D.C., is completed.
  • 1897 – London becomes the world’s first city to host licensed taxicabs.

Here’s one of those first London cabs, a Daimler Victoria gas-powered vehicle. It looks like a horse carriage without the horse:

Here’s the Nefertiti bust, now residing in Berlin’s Neues Museum.  The limestone and painted stucco bust, which the Egyptians have been demanding back (and they have a case for its repatriation), was found in a sculptor’s workshop in the ancient city of Akhetaten,. Wikipedia notes, “The bust of Nefertiti is believed to have been crafted about 1345 BC by the sculptor Thutmose. The bust does not have any inscriptions, but can be certainly identified as Nefertiti by the characteristic crown, which she wears in other surviving (and clearly labelled) depictions, for example the “house altar”.

It’s truly a beautiful piece of work.

The devastation:

(From Wikipedia): A view across the devastation of Halifax two days after the explosion, looking toward the Dartmouth side of the harbour. Imo is visible aground on the far side of the harbour. [JAC: The Imo is the ship with which a French ship, laden with explosives, collided, setting off a fire and then the blast.]

Yes he did Yes! A first edition of Ulysses (1000 copies were printed) will run you about $90,000 U.S. Mrkgnao! But that’s cheaper than I thought:

Here’s a video of the melee showing some of the violence and the stabbing of Hunter in slow motion.

And here’s one of the photos that indicated that, at least at one time, liquid water was present on Mars. The Wikipedia caption:

This image taken by Mars Global Surveyor spans a region about 1,500 m (4,921 ft) across, showing gullies on the walls of Newton Basin in Sirenum Terra. Similar channels on Earth are formed by flowing water, but on Mars the temperature is normally too cold and the atmosphere too thin to sustain liquid water. Nevertheless, many scientists hypothesize that liquid groundwater can sometimes surface on Mars, erode gullies and channels, and pool at the bottom before freezing and evaporating.

Notables born on this day include:

  • 1896 – Ira Gershwin, American songwriter (d. 1983)
  • 1898 – Alfred Eisenstaedt, German-American photographer and journalist (d. 1995)
  • 1901 – Eliot Porter, American photographer and academic (d. 1990)

Here’s one of Porter’s many wonderful nature photos: “Frostbitten Apples, Tesuque, New Mexico” (1966):

  • 1908 – Baby Face Nelson, American gangster (d. 1934)
  • 1920 – Dave Brubeck, American pianist and composer (d. 2012)
  • 1948 – JoBeth Williams, American actress

Those who became extinct on December 6 include:

  • 1882 – Anthony Trollope, English novelist, essayist, and short story writer (b. 1815)
  • 1889 – Jefferson Davis, American general and politician, President of the Confederate States of America (b. 1808)
  • 1955 – Honus Wagner, American baseball player and manager (b. 1874)
  • 1956 – B. R. Ambedkar, Indian economist and politician, 1st Indian Minister of Justice (b. 1891)
  • 1988 – Roy Orbison, American singer-songwriter and guitarist (b. 1936)
  • 2017 – Johnny Hallyday, French singer and actor (b. 1943)

Voilà: Le Johnny, a phenomenon in France, unknown (and rightly so) elsewhere:

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili is eating like the queen she is:

Hili: There is no other solution.
A: To what problem?
Hili: We must buy more of the sirloin we just ate.
In Polish:
Hili: Nie ma innego rozwiązania.
Ja: W jakiej sprawie?
Hili: Trzeba kupić więcej takiej polędwicy jak ta, którą już zjedliśmy.

In nearby Wloclawek, Elzbieta is reading a story to Leon:

Leon:  Do you think this story will end happily?

In Polish: Myślisz, że ta historia zakończy się szczęśliwie?

From Facebook:

From reader Scott, a Gedankenexperiment:

And a bit of humor from newsman Dan Rather:

From Malgorzata: an anti-racist black woman who’s also anti-anti-Semitic.  Of course she’s also Jewish and Israeli. The panel she refers to was a real one.

From reader Peter, who shows that Jordan Peterson really does have some wacko beliefs, one being that the ancient Chinese didn’t just know about DNA, but also realized that it was a double helix! I may have previously posted his dumb opinion, in the first tweet, on atheists and art.

From reader Barry. Guess the species!

Tweets from Matthew. What a delightful sight—I hope they got some fish!

A beaver who needs air:

Matthew noted that this should read “Jerry and his duck”:

A dog-herding cat? Indeed, as it should be.